Farewell! Au revoir! Veloma!

by Jordan Gray 

This past weekend, most of “Team Radiata 1” said goodbye to Madagascar and the nearly 10,000 Radiated Tortoises (Astrochelys radiata) for which they had spent the better part of two weeks caring for. This amazing team of wildlife warriors was the first of several teams scheduled to depart the United States to provide a relief effort for the thousands of tortoises seized from wildlife traffickers on April 10, 2018.

The team, which was rapidly organized following the seizure, composed of staff members of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Dallas Zoo (DZ), Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden (OCZ), San Diego Zoo (SDZG), Utah's Hogle Zoo (UHZ), and Zoo Knoxville (ZK), as well as private veterinary and medical consultants.

Departing the U.S. on April 20th, the team descended upon the small coastal town of Ifaty and the ‚ÄúVillages des Tortues‚Äù where the tortoises are being temporarily held. There, they joined staff members of TSA-Madagascar, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT), and SOPTOM-CRCC, chelonian intern Thomas Muller, and local volunteers, who had begun caring for the tortoises immediately following the seizure. The team was later joined by members of fellow chelonian conservation organizations the Turtle Conservancy (TC) and SOPTOM-CRCC on April 27th.

This profound experience will not only leave an indelible mark on those who participated, but also a long-lasting resonance for the conservation of the critically endangered Radiated Tortoise in Madagascar. The turtle and tortoise community and conservation community as a whole owes these incredible people and their representative organizations an enormous thanks, or “saotra,” as is said in Madagascar!

Stay tuned to meet “Team Radiata 2” who joins Dr. Bonnie Raphael, Jordan Gray, Heather Alford, Tsito, and Dr. Ny Aina Tiana Rakotoarisoa in Ifaty!

Pictured Left to Right:

Back row: Jorge Chavez (DZ), Nathanael Stanek (TC), Ihsann Sebro (private), Jordan Gray (TSA), Josh Lucas (OCZ), Chris Sleater (UHZ), Dr. Ken Conley (WCS)

Middle row: Dr. Bonnie Raphael (private), Stephen Nelson (ZK), Lisa Eidlin (WCS)

Front row: Anibal Armendaris (WCS), Dr. Susie Bartlett (WCS), Dr. Ny Aina Tiana Rakotoarisoa (TSA), Heather Alford (SDZG), and Dr. Laurie Goldstein (private)

Not pictured: Clinton Doak (TSA) Photo Credit: Garth Cripps

Support from the global conservation community has been incredible, and we are extremely thankful for the multitude of individuals and organizations that have begun pouring in donations and supplies. The fight to save these tortoises will not be easy and will not be quick. We expect to send multiple teams to Madagascar over the coming weeks and months to assist in the effort. And we will continue to need your support! We humbly ask that you make a donation to save the lives of these beautiful, charismatic, and critically endangered tortoises.

Please DONATE TODAY to save these tortoises, and assist with the largest tortoise rescue effort in our history! 

Additionally, if you are a zoological institution, private practice, husbandry technician, or additional support personnel interested in assisting, please contact Andrew Walde, Chief Operations Officer, directly at awalde@turtlesurvival.org.

Photo credit: Garth Cripps